Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu claimed on Thursday that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and the Al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) are “backstage partners,” Al Arabiya reported.

“Certain circles showcase threats of al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant so as to manufacture a perception that the Assad regime is the lesser of two evils, trying to cover up the oppression of a regime which is responsible for the killings of over 150,000 people,” Davutoglu was quoted as having said in a televised interview.

“The regime and the ISIS are backstage partners,” he claimed, according to Al Arabiya.

The Turkish minister said a “psychological war” was being waged against his country with claims that it is supporting extremist terrorists in Syria.

“The Syrian regime accuses the opposition with terrorism and thus they gain legitimacy to suppress the so-called act of terrorism with a bigger act of violence,” he said. “This situation triggers more clashes.”

The Syrian civil war has gotten more complex in recent days, as several groups of Syrian rebels united for the purpose of launching a new “revolution” against ISIS, which is part of a group of jihadist rebels that declared Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state. ISIS members have summarily executed members of the Western-backed rebel groups.

The fighting between rebels killed at least 50 Syrian rebels on Sunday alone. On Wednesday, Syrian Islamist rebels from the Islamic Front said they had captured a key Al-Qaeda base in Aleppo.

Last week, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition (SNC) made similar accusations to those of Davutoglu’s, accusing ISIS of having ties to the Syrian regime, after fighters from the group killed an opposition doctor in northern Syria.

Davutoglu stressed that the Syrian opposition National Coalition should attend a peace conference scheduled for January 22 in Geneva. He said Iran, an ally of President Assad, could attend if it accepts conditions agreed on in Geneva 1.

Turkey is a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and has openly supported the rebels fighting his regime, but has always denied arming them.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been especially vocal about ousting Assad, branding him “a terrorist who uses state terror”. After a chemical weapons attack near Damascus in August, Erdogan called for military intervention in Syria that would topple Assad’s regime.

The heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria have led to several cross-border incidents, including the explosion of a Syrian mortar in Turkish territory, which killed five civilians last year. Last week, Turkish security forces seized a truck laden with weapons bound for Syria and arrested three people.

That incident was blamed on IHH, the same organization that was behind the 2010 flotilla aimed at breaking Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.